The decision to purchase a large format printer may seem straightforward, but it is actually more complex than it appears. There is no such thing as one-size-fits all and your unique requirements will help determine your decision.
In Part 1 of this two part series, Océ, a Canon Group company and an international leader in digital document management, will help you understand the first four considerations that are critical to making an informed decision when purchasing a large format printer.
Color and/or Black & White
It may seem like the most basic aspect to consider, but the choice between color and black & white (B/W) has consequences for how your users will actually use the printer. The type of print jobs that you do and how the printer is used will guide this decision.
Output: Posters, photos, technical documents, rendering or presentations require color to achieve the highest quality output.
Productivity: Keep in mind that a B/W printer generally performs faster, so if speed is an issue you might prefer B/W.
Print Robustness: Consider where your prints are used. If you need prints that can stand up to outside weather conditions, B/W may be best. Some color printers that use color toner, pigment ink or can print on waterproof media can also be a good option.
Print Costs: Know your print volumes and how you will manage print costs if users have a color printer at their disposal. Keep in mind that a color large format printer can print in B/W for approximately the same cost as a monochrome printer when your monthly print volume is low.
Although tempting, basing your decision solely on the purchase price of the printer is not wise. You must weigh the true return on your investment and all related costs.
There are three cost areas to consider – the initial investment, running costs and hidden costs. The initial investment includes the cost of the printer, delivery, supply inventory for the old printer that may not be usable in the new printer and installation of new drivers. Running costs include the cost of all consumables, media and service. Remember not to overlook your hidden costs – there can be a hefty price behind wasted resources and lost time, for example printing multiple times to either get optimum print quality or because it is unclear if the printer is processing the file you sent to it. Often a system that is more automated will help lower such hidden costs. Finally, keep in mind that leasing may be a cost effective alternative to buying, especially if your preferred large format printer has a high initial price and you lack available funds.
Performance and Speed
The performance of a large format printer is more than just speed; it includes everything from the time you send a job to the printer to actually holding the print in your hand. When evaluating performance and speed, look at how you use your current system – a continuous flow of documents requires high throughput speed, while a short first print out time is more important for intermittent printing.
Processing time (how long the printer takes to process files), warm-up time (does the printer start printing right away out of sleep-mode), speed vs. print quality mode (what is the print speed for different quality color documents), and throughput (can the printer process new files while printing previous ones) combine to give you a complete picture of the printer's performance.
For a true evaluation, look beyond the technical specifications. Take your own print files to a demonstration to measure the performance of the printer.
The first thing that you may think about with regard to image quality is resolution, expressed in dots per inch (dpi). However, high resolution does not necessarily guarantee the best quality. Image quality is critical to ensuring important information is not lost and it can influence the bid process (e.g. insufficient quality may result in the loss of a bid).
Because of its importance, consider the following when looking at image quality.
Resolution vs. Image Processing: The way the printer interprets data is just as important as resolution and especially critical when working with fine or dotted lines and detailed prints.
Quality and Media Dependency: Depending on the media used, quality can vary tremendously when using a color inkjet printer (print quality is generally the same on B/W printers). Differences can occur in color output and quality of thin and fine lines.
Scan Technologies: There are distinct differences in quality for scan technologies by different printer manufacturers. Evaluate if the printer is able to suppress wrinkles and folds in original drawings, while maintaining weak information such as pencil lines.
These four considerations are the most important areas to evaluate when investigating your options for a large format printer. Should you wish to go one level deeper, Part 2 of this series will address the final five considerations.
For a step-by-step guide to selecting the best quality large format printer that your work deserves, download the whitepaper Nine Consideration When Buying a Large Format Printer.